Is there really any reason to watch an NBA regular-season game this season, especially if you're a Chicago Bulls fan? 

It seems a foregone conclusion that Warriors-Cavaliers IV will happen again during the finals in June. Boston has an outside chance to derail LeBron James and Cleveland in the Eastern Conference, but the Celtics are probably a year away from being true contenders.

And no one will beat Golden State in the West as long as Steph Curry and Kevin Durant are in the prime of their careers together. No one.

Like it or not, the NBA starts earlier than usual when Boston travels to Cleveland and Houston ventures to Golden State on Tuesday to open the season. Both games are on TNT, starting at 7 p.m. 

While there are surprises in the NFL every year, and to a lesser extent MLB (this year's New York Yankees), it's much easier in the NBA to guarantee who are going to be the elite teams every season.

That especially has been true the last six years or so as more star players align with other star players to form super teams.

Unfortunately, this trend has watered down the league considerably and made some teams absolutely dreadful to watch. If you live in Central Illinois, you're going to find that out this season.

The Bulls are following the blueprint adopted by Theo Epstein and the Cubs several years ago — and the White Sox this season — and basically tanking. Without Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade, the Bulls are really a bunch of no names who are playing for the No. 1 overall pick.

The agony begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday when the Bulls go north of the border to get throttled by the Toronto Raptors (NBC Sports Chicago). Don't let the children watch. It could get ugly.

It might be interesting to see how the Minnesota Timberwolves develop with Butler providing a veteran influence alongside young players like Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns. And the Philadelphia 76ers could be fun to check out with their bunch of talented youngsters.

Other than that, see you in June, NBA.

MLB playoffs: Cubs at Dodgers (TBS, 7 p.m. Saturday, 6:30 p.m. Sunday): The rematch of last year's NLCS begins with Los Angeles rested and Clayton Kershaw ready. This should be tougher than a year ago for the Cubs. 

NFL: Steelers at Chiefs (CBS, 3:25 p.m. Sunday): The Steelers seem to be imploding, while Kansas City is riding high with the league's only unbeaten record. In other words, Pittsburgh in an upset? 

Contact Jim Benson at jbenson@pantagraph.com.

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Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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